Malmesbury boxing group for Parkinson’s patients sees surge in members

A group of men standing in a line, holding their hands up with boxing-style fists

The group started with just two people, but is growing enough that they want to expand

A boxing group which runs amateur sessions for people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s is proving so popular it has plans to expand.

Malmesbury Amateur Boxing Club started after head coach Mike Rees saw the classes proving popular in America.

One of its biggest fans is Billy Parry who found out he had the progressive neurological condition seven years ago.

He said the classes have helped strengthen his muscles: “You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to fight it.”

“I’ve got worse and worse and the last two years have really gone downhill, ” he told BBC Radio Wiltshire.

“It’s a progressive disease and gradually it takes you down.

“I can feel I’ve deteriorated a lot now. I’m doing my best to pull myself back up or at least be stable.”

Mike Rees is head coach at the club and is keen to roll out even more classes for those grappling with the condition.

“I started off with maybe two in the first session and now 10 are signed up to it,” he said.

“They must enjoy it – they keep coming back.”

Mr Rees said that boxing is especially good for Parkinson’s “because it involves all body movement, focus and concentration, which is good for the mind as well”.

Two men in boxing gloves practising, the younger on the left, an older man on the right

Malmesbury Amateur Boxing Club has been running sessions for people with Parkinson’s disease

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition that worsens over time.

Those with the disease have too little of the chemical dopamine in their brain because some of the nerve cells that make it have stopped working.

Symptoms include:

  • slow movement

Source: Parkinson’s UK

A group of older men do boxing exercises together

The men who go to the group say the exercise is helpful

David Lewis was also diagnosed seven years ago and said exercise was a big help for him.

“It’s so much better than medication and you don’t get the side effects.

“It’s really maintenance. Keeping everything moving and rebuilding the neuron paths in the brain.”

Meanwhile Bob Cazenove – who was diagnosed in 2015 – said boxing is “great because you’re working the whole body” but it is also “great to get your anger out”.

Andy heard about the group through the local branch of Parkinson’s UK and explained: “It’s good for my Parkinson’s, it helps my co-ordination.”

Harriet Mallinson fundraises for them and calls it a “small and mighty club – it’s got a lot of reach in terms of local towns and villages surrounding it”.

“We’d love to be able to provide it to more people and get the word out.”

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